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Event Recap: 6 PR trends to track in 2018

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This post was written by Carolyn LoConte, a CPRS Toronto member. LoConte is an Account Coordinator at PRAXIS PR, currently working on alcohol beverage and lifestyle brands. She can be contacted via LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.

 

What is public relations?

Simply put, there is no one-sided answer. There is, however, one ironic truth we can rely on to remain the same in this dynamic field – this industry is ever-changing.

In this hyperconnected, competitive world, the PR industry has changed more radically over these last two years than ever before. These years have been crowded with shifting media trends, amplified social media use, and even included the term “fake news” as Collins Word of the Year for 2017.

Amid all of this ambiguity, is there an opportunity in this uncertain future for public relations to thrive?

On December 4, 2017, a trio of accomplished communicators from CPRS Toronto sat down to dive into the conversation of what trends will persist in 2018.

Panelists

  • Lauren More: Vice President of Communications, Ford Motor Company
  • Tracey Bochner: Co-Founder/President, Paradigm PR
  • Bruce MacLellan: CEO, Environics Communication
  • Moderated by Ian Ross: Director of Communications, Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development

 

  1. Demand for data

PR pros and students alike are notorious for sporting the statement, ‘I’m not good at math.’ It’s been a longstanding misconception that math is not part of the PR world. Yet, the demand for data has intensified. We increasingly depend on metrics and analytics to gain insights into audiences, improve integrated campaigns, understand media trends and more.

“PR people can no longer be afraid of numbers!” Lauren More said. “They need an appreciation of data. Math wasn’t part of my education, but it’s certainly part of my daily work.”

 

  1. Quality over quantity

The panel agreed 2018 is the time to be more strategic. Specifically, it’s worth spending the time on quality, rather than the traditional focus on quantity.

More added that as audiences continue to fragment, and channels continue to multiply, PR pros should focus on creating authentic stories and connections that resonate with their audiences.

“Once we leverage this quality-over-quantity approach, it’s more likely to guide campaigns towards successfully connecting with, and influencing, the right people.”

 

  1. Influencer Marketing

There’s no getting around it – influencers are here to stay for the foreseeable future. They been around for decades, but in the past, the “influencer” title was commonly reserved for people with celebrity status, in forms such as models, athletes, or actresses and actors.

This is no longer the case. Influencers have changed the definition of the term “celebrity,” as people continue to follow online personalities who inspire their passions. This ranges from make-up, food and cars, to virtually anything these days.

When choosing influencers, the question has now become, as More put it, a celebrity to whom?

“People can see a famous face every time they open Instagram. As we go into 2018, we should be selective of who we choose to work with. It’s essential to ensure the influencer is connected to the right audience and authentic to the story we want to tell.”

 

  1. The Consumer Experience

Consumers are currently craving experiences over material items. People are now using experiences to define themselves across social channels, and the modern consumer has caught on to the idea that experiences are as valuable as fancy things.

Looking ahead, the panel suggested practitioners should be mindful to bind creative, traditional storytelling with meaningful consumer experiences.

“Creative storytelling has never been more important,” MacLellan stated. “The demand for it, along with crafting a memorable consumer experience, is the direction successful communication is heading.”

 

  1. Integrated Campaigns

Well-defined differences still remain between the public relations, marketing and advertising fields. However, there is a growing realization that an integrated approach may best accomplish an organization’s objectives.

Panelist Tracey Bochner mentioned within the last year her agency has not been receiving traditional requests, but clients continue to knock at Paradigm’s door.

“This is great, because it says the world recognizes the integrated landscape should live in public relations,” Bochner said. “This is not necessarily a new trend, but the recent shift is coming towards our industry. We need to grab on, and expand our services and skills around it. This is our future.”

 

  1. Maintaining trust, authenticity and relationships (especially in a pay-to-play world)

Trust and authenticity has always been the cornerstone of PR, but in an era overloaded with information and “fake news,” it has become increasingly difficult to develop an audience’s trust.

“People have gained a mass ability to see through corporations. Transparency levels are incredible now,” MacLellan noted. “Companies need to learn what the current drivers of trust are, otherwise achieving a genuine relationship with your audience will be awfully challenging.”

Bochner also emphasized the importance of the industry’s continued transparency when it comes to paid programs.

“Our reputation wasn’t great when this practice was being hidden. We have to respect the consumer as they become more knowledgeable of these practices, and maintain this transparency to secure their trust.”

Many of us are already ambitious, multitasking communicators. The panel unanimously agreed everyone is not expected to be both a data-driven analyst and creative storyteller on top of it all. It’s simply important to be aware of these trends, and to embrace them.

 

With all of the uncertainty ahead, our industry has been presented with the opportunity to shape public relations into what Canada needs. Now is the time to start planning, so we can conquer the communications world in 2018.

The Future of Public Relations

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This post was written by CPRS Toronto’s Director of Education, Heath Applebaum, ABC. Heath is the President of Echo Communications and a professor at University of Guelph-Humber, teaching strategic communications. 

On August 15, I had the distinct pleasure of moderating the inaugural Future of PR event, where an all-star panel of corporate, agency and academic thought leaders gazed into a crystal ball to scrutinize where the profession is headed.

Panelists included Dave Haggith, Senior Director of Communications at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Daniel Tisch, President, Argyle Public Relationships, Barry Waite, Academic Chair of Communications at Centennial College, and Anne Marie Males, PR Professor and Coordinator for the Bachelor of Public Relations program at Humber College.

Together we examined a broad range of important themes impacting professionals, educators and students across Canada, including the seven megatrends impacting our industry that were identified in the recent CPRS white paper, The Elevation of Public Relations. These trends include the rising business value of reputation, the empowered audience, content shock, many speak, few listen, fake news and the decline of journalism, a gap in wealth and trust, and artificial intelligence.

The panel engaged in a captivating dialogue with a packed crowd at the Pilot Tavern in downtown Toronto with conversations flowing for hours after the formal event had concluded.

 

Several key ideas emerged from discussions flowing from the changing media and business landscape in Canada. Living in an era of digital transparency, relationships have become more essential than ever for building, protecting and managing organizational reputation.

In a world where information and misinformation spreads globally with the click of a mouse, public relations professionals have an unprecedented opportunity to earn leadership roles that transcend communication, truly inform and influence business strategy and outcomes.

With the emergence of fake news and unfortunate decline of journalism, panelists emphasized the need for our profession to play an even greater role in safeguarding accurate and ethical communications.

A growing concern is that the reputations of people, companies and brands have never been more vulnerable to attack. Communicators must invest more resources towards listening, engaging stakeholders and anticipating issues, and establish rapid-response capabilities.  The former 24-hour news cycle we once knew, has accelerated into more of a 24-second Twitter news cycle that is requiring our industry to consider new strategies and for organizations to become nimbler than ever.

Ultimately, with new technologies constantly emerging and predictive analytics bound to take on a greater role in our world, to stay ahead of the curve, practitioners will have to embrace lifelong learning.  Only then can we truly learn from the past, live in the present and prepare for the future.

 

Event Recap – Unprecedented Crisis: Fort McMurray Wildfire

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On June 20, CPRS Toronto partnered with  the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) to host some of the key players in the dramatic Fort McMurray wildfire response and recovery, including representatives from the Canadian Red Cross, IBC and former members of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The panel was full of engaging stories and frank insight about what it took to tackle the most costly natural disaster in Canadian history. CPRS Toronto would like to give a special thanks to the team at IBC for their support in making last week’s event possible, as well as the panelists and moderator for their participation.

“As an actor in the wildfire response, I’m always happy to have a chance to discuss what was done and rehash those moves,” explained Robin Smith, one of the panelists and a former Communications Strategist at the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo who stayed behind to facilitate the evacuation of the city. “It’s enjoyable to be able to pass on the things we learned to other people who might use them one day, but we also benefit from being able to talk through the experience and gain new perspective on things that might seem mundane to us.”

“Our chapter is always looking to the cutting edge so that we can give our members the opportunity to engage with new ideas and ask thought provoking questions,” said Danielle Kelly, APR, CPRS Toronto Co-President. “It was fascinating to hear a firsthand account of an event that relied so heavily on communication. There was a lot to be learned and I think people came away with a new appreciation of how important our role as communicators can be.”

Photos of the event are posted below. Stay tuned for updates on CPRS Toronto’s next event, The Future of PR on August 15. More details are available on the Events page.

Storify: March 2 LinkedIn for Corporate Communicators

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Kathleen Kahlon

In case you missed it, below are some of the highlights of the March 2, 2015 event with Kathleen Kahlon @KathleenKahlon of LinkedIn where she shared

  • how to promote your brand by optimizing your LinkedIn profile,
  • create compelling content to engage your network, and
  • craft a company page that people will want to follow.

 

Member appreciation event nets largest turnout in recent memory

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How to capture the energy of the 160 CPRS Toronto members who attended our season opener at the historic Enoch Turner Schoolhouse on September 27? Perhaps a few of your stories will do the trick.

CPRS Toronto hosted 160 Members at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse for it’s season opener on September 27, 2012.

In her follow-up note to the event, Carol Panasiuk, APR, LM, says that she appreciated the opportunity to get together with the senior practice group at our private reception, which took place just prior to the main event with all CPRS Toronto members. She found the reception to be a great opportunity to catch up with her peers and has suggested that CPRS Toronto get the senior practice group together a couple of times each year. We’re planning on it, Carol!

Bruce Stock, APR, FCPRS, dropped in on Kathleen Garrett, APR, and the APR study group that had hived themselves off for some exam preparations. He told our APR candidates of his experience as an Oral Examiner in the CPRS Accreditation Program several years ago, revealing that he and the other two examiners had given a perfect score to a candidate. Bruce wanted to impress upon our candidates that, a) it could be done, and b) the key was that the successful candidate was concise with her answers. This APR candidate had spoken succinctly and with purpose and when she was done, she was done. It was great to be in on this particular interaction that will hopefully serve as some inspiration for the CPRS Toronto candidates who are now into an extremely intense part of the accreditation process.

The members heard brief updates from their Board members, learning about our current priorities and numerous upcoming events. These Board reports generated great follow-up discussions with our members and sponsors. I spoke with Emmanuel Caisse with CEDROM-SNi on his way out, for example. He had already connected with our Board liaison to sponsors, Laurie Smith, and was deeply engaged in exploring ways to meet our members’ professional needs.

This event has also jump-started our member volunteer network once again, to the delight of Board members Parm Chohan, who is coordinating volunteer placements with the Board’s working committees, and Jenn Heyes, who heads up our student leadership team.

CPRS Toronto President Vincent Power, APR, had a lively chat with a group of student members who were amused when he told them to be sure to pull their weight in group assignments at school. Vincent advised the students that PR school stories travel far and wide and could ultimately affect their employment. Our new student members were shocked and somewhat horrified to hear this but soon realized that they could relate. According to the students, the time spent on group assignments is the hardest time to like your fellow PR students.

We also heard from members who were unable to attend. Perhaps my favourite exchange was with Andrew Clarke who sent his regrets but didn’t forgo his opportunity to network. Andrew asked us for some support to get in touch with members who, like him, are giving leadership to social media and community relations strategies. We have since offered Andrew some contacts to get started.

Judging by what you said, I think we were successful in providing an appropriate and meaningful networking opportunity for our members at this event. I hope we also adequately conveyed our appreciation for your continuing member support of CPRS Toronto.

The final word here goes out to CPRS Toronto members Amie Zimon, Jessica Delaney and Jenn Heyes who answered our call for volunteer support at this event. Given the number of members who attended, they certainly had their hands full in terms of handling the social graces while also helping to ease our new members into the CPRS family. You did a truly admirable job. Thank you.

Networking tips: Get more out of our events

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Here are three tips to help you get the most out of our season opener on Thursday, September 27:

Know your objective. Would you like to make new contacts in your practice area? Are you looking for business intelligence or leads? On the hunt for an internship or job?

Work the room. Stay in any one group long enough to meet its members and establish the subject in discussion. If the topic is not right up your alley, bow out politely and move along.

Exchange business cards. Offer your card when you find a fit. Or, if you do not have a business card, inquire about the option to take a card from your new contact. Remember to follow-up afterward, too!

Further reading: Networking mistakes you don’t know you’re making, Networking is to easy as shouting is to quiet.